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2nd District candidates' ideas for health care, pensions, tuition

CONCORD, N.H. --U.S. Rep. Charles Bass and his challenger in the Sept. 12 Republican primary, Berlin Mayor Bob Danderson, want the federal government to do more to help students pay for college.

But Bass wants more federal money going to high achievers while Danderson said the aid should go to students pursuing careers that serve the public.

"The grants should be dedicated to the needs of our nation like nursing, teachers, military, biotech," Danderson said. Currently, federal Pell grants are awarded based primarily on family income, he noted.

Bass pointed to his voting record on the issue.

"I voted to increase the maximum Pell grant to $6,000 per year, in addition to supporting a new program that would provide extra Pell grant funding for high achieving first- and second-year students," Bass said.

Both men were responding to an Associated Press survey to 2nd Congressional District candidates on health care, education, pension reform and Social Security.

In the general election, Bass or Danderson will face Democrat Paul Hodes, who did not respond to repeated requests to participate in the survey.

Ken Blevens, of Bow, is the only Libertarian in the district who qualified to appear on the November ballot. Blevens said he would eliminate all grants for higher education.

"I believe that a grant is government taking money from someone and giving it to someone else," he said.

Both Danderson and Bass say they support federal funding of vouchers to allow parents to send their children to private primary and secondary schools.

"Private school choice truly empowers parents by allowing them full access to every educational possibility available," Bass said. He said the competition would give public schools an incentive to improve.

Danderson is more hesitant, suggesting that federally funded school vouchers be used on a trial basis with conditions to ensure that student progress can be measured.

Blevens would leave the issue to communities and would eliminate federal involvement in education.

Both Bass and Danderson support the new pension reform law, which requires businesses with underfunded retirement plans to have them fully funded within seven years. But Danderson criticized special treatment in the law -- extra time to comply -- for industries including defense contracting.

Bass praised the law's stronger funding and disclosure requirements.

"Unlike in the past, companies will have to make cash contributions to their funds, not just empty promises," he said.

Blevens argues government should leave pension agreements to employers and employees and let the courts deal with any complaints.

He also called Social Security "a pyramid scam" and recommended ending the program.

Bass supports changes to Social Security, including partially privatizing the system with personal retirement accounts. But he said existing retirees and those approaching retirement should not be part of that change.

Danderson said he needed to study the issue further.

None of the candidates who responded supported government-sponsored universal health care.

Bass said: "I support sensible medical liability reform to shield providers from frivolous lawsuits that drive up insurance premiums and limit access for patients. I am a strong supporter of community health centers, which provide valuable primary medical and dental care to all regardless of economic background."

Danderson proposes tax incentives and other rewards to encourage all employers to offer health insurance to their workers.

Blevens said the only way to reduce the cost of health insurance is to promote competition.

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